Some of my readers may be aware that I have recently started doing an internet radio show. It’s called Dimland Radio and you can find it at www.ztalkradio.com Saturday nights at 11:00 central. In fact, you can read my show notes each week right here at my blog. There, that gets the plug out of the way.
The first topic of my first show was ‘Scooby Doo, Where Are You?’, because it was the first kids’ program that encouraged a skeptical viewpoint. It debuted in September 1969, focusing on four kids and their dog roaming the countryside in their Mystery Machine van, looking for mysteries to solve. These intrepid trust-funders (there was never a hint of any of them having a job) would stumble upon a mystery of some apparent supernatural event and search for clues. Chased by ghosts, witches, werewolves and other assorted creeps, our heroes would always manage to reveal the truth and catch the bad guys.
The bad guys, as I’m sure you are aware, never turned out to be anything near being supernatural. It was never an actual ghost or witch or werewolf. It was nearly always a person in a costume (there was the one episode where the creep was a robot run amok). It’s a wonder that the kids, especially Shaggy and Scooby, would continue to be scared of “g-g-g-ghosts!” After all the times the mystery turned out not to be supernatural, you’d think they would no longer believe in ghosts or the like.
Just the other day, when I got home from work, I joined my son in watching a Scooby Doo animated movie online via Netflix. (Oh, Netflix! How truly wonderful thou art!) The show was called ‘Scooby Doo and the Witch’s Ghost’. It was produced in 1999, 30 years after the world was introduced to Scoob and the gang.
Oh, boy! Was I disappointed!
First, it was 1999 and the world was beginning to be bombarded with the whole global warming, the earth is in danger message. So, of course, a kids’ cartoon had to deliver some save the earth message whether it pertained to the plot or not. In this case, it didn’t.
We were introduced to a grrl rock band named the Hex Girls. They called themselves “eco-Goths”, which seemed to mean that they were girls that liked to look like the undead and sing about how much they love the earth. And, as if to add some authenticity to the group, one member was Wiccan. I found it interesting that they treated Wicca as though it was an ethnicity, as in being Jewish, and not a religion, as in being Catholic. I may be wrong, but I don’t think Wicca can be considered an ethnicity.
But this was a minor annoyance.
What really bothered me was the fact that, at some point in the intervening 30 years, Hanna-Barbera thought it would be a good idea to drop the no supernatural policy as applied to Scooby Doo. And that’s what I was so disturbed by when watching ‘Scooby Doo and the Witch’s Ghost.’ There was an actual ghost. My skeptic’s heart was broken.
Sure the first two thirds of the show held to the guys in costumes and other trickery angle, but act three went supernatural. A character who turned out to be a double-crossing villain found a book of spells and released the witch’s ghost from whatever limbo in which she had been imprisoned. It wasn’t smoke bombs and mirrors or any other tricks, nope, it was magic. Black magic!
It was also very anime. Lots of energy blasts, lightning bolts, explosions, yelling and screaming in that anime fashion. Trees became animated, as did pumpkins. People were lifted into the air and held in some sort of energy field. Finally, it took the pure of heart Wiccan girl to read the spell that would rid the world of the evil ghost and her helper. Mystery solved.
When the show ended I felt that I had been insulted by Hanna-Barbera. I explained to my son how it was wrong for Scooby to have been promoting supernatural, after having shown that such mysteries always have a real world explanation. Scooby had taught kids that the supernatural, the paranormal and the unexplained are merely mysteries that can be solved.
I don’t have a problem with other shows and movies, for kids or adults, indulging in the supernatural fantasy. I am a fan of The X-Files, Jonny Quest, Harry Potter, Dracula, Frankenstein, haunted house movies, etc. Those shows never held that the supernatural was just unexplained natural phenomena (well, Scully tried). But when Scooby went supernatural, I felt so damned insulted.
Scooby Doo, how could you?!